Depending on Who You Listen To, Youth Cannabis Usage May Be Up or Down – LPC
Investigating youth cannabis usage is a hot topic in the research community. After all, one of the main reasons for legalization was to remove the illegal market. That in turn would (the theory went) reduce youth cannabis usage and protect our children. But is it working out that way?
According to Canada.com (see link below), the data is mixed. One Health Canada study surprisingly found that youth cannabis usage is actually higher than youth tobacco usage. Seven per cent of 13- and 14-year-olds said they had tried cannabis, while 8 per cent said they usage it occasionally. Tobacco usage was only 4 per cent.
Another Health Canada survey found an upswing in cannabis usage among high school students. However, that upswing started before legalization in 2014.
“Before that, youth cannabis usage was declining,” said Dr. Alexandra Zuckerman, lead investigator on the study. She has been tracking cannabis usage as a researcher with the Public Health Agency of Canada since 2012. Dr. Zuckerman said that the upswing does match about the time when legalization was being talked about. Medical cannabis usage could have had an effect as well. “These changing social norms may have contributed to rising youth usage.”
The study’s lead author reports that public perception began shifting in 2014, likely due to lots of cannabis discussion and widespread medical cannabis usage.
Meanwhile, a Canadian Association for Mental Health study to be released soon shows the opposite. Youth cannabis usage has dropped from 28 per cent to 19 per cent in 20 years to 2017, according to that study. Tobacco usage meanwhile dropped from 30 per cent to 7 per cent.
Does Legal Mean Safe? – LPC
The biggest fear for youth cannabis usage is that they will see legalization as a signal that it is safe. That is far from true, and especially since it can affect long-term brain development. And, it can have an impact now.
“You can’t fatally overdose on cannabis,” said Dr. Jason Busse, of cannabisresearch.mcmaster.ca. “But consuming high amounts of THC can lead to sufficiently distressing symptoms.” These include hallucinations, paranoia, and panic attacks, he said.
Meanwhile, Health Canada will implement strict packaging for cannabis edibles to ensure it is not enticing to children. Experts also encourage parents to discuss the dangers of youth cannabis use with their children.
On the other side, legalization has led to much fewer restrictions on cannabis research. That can only be a good thing as, among other things, our knowledge of youth cannabis usage grows.
This editorial content from the LPC News Editor is meant to provide analysis, insight, and perspective on current news articles. To read the source article this commentary is based upon, please click on the link below.